By Mike Scarcella
(Reuters) – Amazon.com Inc must face consumer claims that its pricing practices artificially drove up the cost of goods sold by other retailers in violation of U.S. antitrust law, a federal judge has ruled.
The ruling by U.S. District Judge Richard Jones in Seattle on Friday came in a prospective antitrust class action that has estimated damages of between $55 billion to $172 billion.
The lawsuit was filed in 2020 by residents of 18 states, including Virginia, Texas, California, Florida and Illinois, challenging an Amazon policy that retailers cannot offer lower prices for goods sold elsewhere if they also want their product available on the Amazon Marketplace platform.
Jones’ order trimmed the lawsuit but said consumers can move ahead with their case.
Plaintiffs lawyer Steve Berman of Hagens Berman Sobol Shapiro, a lead attorney for the proposed class, said “Amazon’s main arguments are rejected,” and called the ruling “good news for tens of millions of consumers who have been overcharged by Amazon.”
An Amazon spokesperson declined to comment.
Amazon has denied the plaintiffs’ claims, arguing that its “Fair Pricing Policy” has procompetitive benefits and that U.S. antitrust law encourages such a policy.
The e-retail giant can still defend its pricing practices at a later stage in the litigation, and also can urge the court not to allow consumers to sue as a class. The court said it wants to review a class certification briefing schedule by mid-April.
A separate private consumer suit, also pending in Seattle federal court, alleges Amazon’s practices have increased prices for items sold on the company’s own platform.
Attorneys general in California and Washington, D.C., also have sued Amazon over pricing policies.
The case is Frame-Wilson et al v. Amazon.com Inc, U.S. District Court, Western District of Washington, No. 2:20-cv-00424-RAJ.
(Reporting by Mike Scarcella; editing by Leigh Jones and Bill Berkrot)